It’s a giant pain to build everything yourself. The quickest way to start using PDAL is to leverage builds that were constructed by the PDAL development team using Docker. Docker is a containerization technology that allows you to run pre-built software in a way that is isolated from your system. Think of it like a binary that doesn’t depend on your operating system’s configuration to be able to run.

This exercise will print the first point of an ASPRS LAS file. It will utilize the PDAL command line application to inspect the file.

Install Docker

Docker starting documentation can be found at the following links. Read through them a bit for your platform so you have an idea what to expect.


We will assume you are running on Windows, but the same commands should work in OSX or Linux too – though definition of file paths might provide a significant difference.

Enable Docker access to your machine

In order for Docker to be able to interact with data on your machine, you must make sure to tell it to be able to read your drive(s). Right-click on the little Docker whale icon in you System Tray, choose Settings, and click the Shared box by your C drive:


Run Docker Quickstart Terminal

Docker is most easily accessed using a terminal window that it configures with environment variables and such. Run PowerShell or cmd.exe and issue a simple info command to verify that things are operating correctly:

docker info

Obtain PDAL Image

A PDAL image based on the latest release, including all recent patches, is pushed to Docker Hub with every code change on the PDAL maintenance branch. We need to pull it locally so we can use it to run PDAL commands. Once it is pulled, we don’t have to pull it again unless we want to refresh it for whatever reason.

docker pull pdal/pdal:1.4


Other PDAL versions are provided at the same Docker Hub location, with an expected tag name (ie pdal/pdal:1.4, or pdal/pdal:1.x) for major PDAL versions. The PDAL Docker hub location at https://hub.docker.com/u/pdal/ has images and more information on this topic.

Fetch Sample Data

We need some sample data to play with, so we’re going to download the autzen.laz file to your C:/Users/hobu/Downloads fold. Inside your terminal, issue the following command:

explorer.exe http://www.liblas.org/samples/autzen/autzen.laz
cd C:/Users/hobu/Downloads
copy autzen.laz ..

What’s next?

  • Visit Applications to find out how to utilize PDAL applications to process data on the command line yourself.
  • Visit Development to learn how to embed and use PDAL in your own applications.
  • Readers lists the formats that PDAL can read, Filters lists the kinds of operations you can do with PDAL, and Writers lists the formats PDAL can write.
  • Tutorials contains a number of walk-through tutorials for achieving many tasks with PDAL.
  • The PDAL workshop contains numerous hands-on examples with screenshots and example data of how to use PDAL Applications to tackle point cloud data processing tasks.

See also

Community is a good source to reach out to when you’re stuck.